The Oxford County Fair makes education fun

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By Leslie H. Dixon

OXFORD — This year, it’s all about getting dirty.

The Oxford Fair, which opens Wednesday, Sept. 16, and runs through Saturday, Sept. 19, will feature its annual Agricultural and Conservation Education Day on Wednesday from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Presenters at last year's Oxford County Fair talk to students about the impending attack of ash trees by the emerald ash borer.
Presenters at last year’s Oxford County Fair talk to students about the impending attack of ash trees by the emerald ash borer.

At least 700 home-schooled, public, private and charter school from across Oxford County are expected to participate in learning activities that reinforce Oxford County’s agricultural roots.

Each year, the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District — which has coordinated the Agriculture Education Day at the Oxford County Fair for almost 25 years — picks a theme.

This year’s theme, “It’s All in the Soil, 2015 International Year of Soils,” will feature more than 45 areas where children can see demonstrations, visit exhibits, do hands-on activities, hear storytelling and go on free wagon rides, said Jean Federico, education and outreach coordinator of the conservation district. Highlights include a photo opportunity with Jeff’s Moose Antlers, gem mining and digging through a huge ground hole to explore different layers of soil.

“Kids will be going in and seeing different layers. They’ll get their hands dirty,” Federico said. “They’ll dig it up, save the top and, at the end, they’ll put it back on. You’ll never know the difference.”

As part of the educational component, Federico said the conservation district works with the school district to satisfy the state’s Learning Results requirements in demonstrations with components that focus on science, math and social studies. Maine’s Learning Results outline what students should know and be able to do in all eight subject areas defined by state statute, according to the Maine Department of Education.

“(Students) all get packets with questions that have to meet educational goals,” Federico said.

Presenters at the fair will provide students time to mine for gems, make corn husk dolls and learn about forestry, aquatic life and composting, among other demonstrations.

Federico said 15 to 17 students from Oxford Hills Christian Academy School in South Paris will assist her on Wednesday, doing everything from running presentations and games to photographing the events. She will give Academy students a brief outline of their duties and students will then study and research to prepare for their role that day.

For example, she said, at the “How Long Does it Take to Decompose” station, students will need to gather all the necessary materials, such as a glass bottle, monofilament fish line, disposable diaper, leather, plastic bag and banana peel.

“The object of the exercise is to have the students match the item with the number of years the items takes to decompose,” Federico said.

She said it is very important for students to do research. When they do, they may be surprised that the monofilament fishing line takes approximately 600 years to decompose.

“(Research) will help them feel more comfortable with their presentation,” Federico said. “It’s rewarding to see them learn and gain confidence in the subject matter. Last year I nudged a few of them out of their comfort zones and they did a wonderful job.”

Students coming to the event enjoy having the lesson done by someone closer to them in age that they might identify with, she said, adding it’s “mentoring at its finest.”

Children must pre-register to receive educational materials. For more information, or to register a student for this event, call the Oxford County Soil & Water Conservation District at 743-5789 ext. 111 or email oxfordcountyswcd@gmail.com.

The event is open to all public, private and home school children from pre-kindergarten through fourth grade in Oxford County. For a full schedule of Oxford County Fair events, see the special pullout in section B.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net